Locarno Industry Academy in Morelia Launches

Sundance Institute holds Morelia workshop; Swiss fest plans mini-workshop in Brazil

Training Initiative Locarno Industry Academy in
Courtesy of Locarno and Morelia Film Festivals

MADRID – Sundance Institute’s Joseph Bayer and Marissa Laney and The Criterion Collection’s Kim Hendrickson will talk at the 1st Locarno Industry Academy in Morelia, part of a now gathering export push by Switzerland’s A-category Locarno Festival, Europe’s biggest summer film meet, the Locarno Industry Academy International.

A training, debate and networking format, LIAI targets a new generation of distribution, sales, exhibition and programming execs.

Running Oct. 25-28, the Academy unspools comes as the Sundance Institute’s Artist Services organizes a one-day Morelia Workshop on Oct. 26, and Locarno has announced a second training facility at the 4th Boutique Cinema do Brasil, a works in progress mini-mart staged by the Brazilian export promo org in December in Brazil.

“Given the long-standing relationships of the Locarno Festival with Latin America and the dynamism of the independent film production in those countries, it seemed natural to us to first develop our international initiatives in this region,” said Marion Klotz, Locarno Industry Academy International project manager.

Each territory, each Academy may be different, however. “A new generation’s needs at Locarno may not quite be the same in Mexico,” Klotz said.

Recent statistics for attendance at Mexican films are  spectacular. According to the Anuario Estadístico de Cine Mexicano, published by Imcine’s Mexican Film Institute, attendance for Mexican films dropped from 30.3 million in 2013 to 24 million in 2014. But that is still massively above figures for Mexico in any year of this century, where tickets sold to Mexican films varied from 7.1 million in 2005 to 14.7 million in 2002.

In Mexico last year,  “More Mexican films made more money,” said Luis Vargas, at Rentrak, adding that Mexican films’ average first weekend B.O., at an impressive Peso 4.85 million ($292,620) average, was 99.5% up on 2013. That is a notable achievement given Mexico had no national B.O. juggernaut in 2014 of the caliber of Gaz Alazraki’s “We Are the Nobles” ($26.25 million) and Eugenio Derbez’s “Instructions Not Included” ($46.1 million).

But, for all but a clutch of titles, Mexico’s “bottleneck” remains distribution, said Andrea Stavenhagen, Morelia programmer and industry Aadvisor, encouraging producers to create their own theatrical release operations and a vibrant, if still challenged, niche/alternative distrib scene to build.

“Morelia itself has helped generate increasingly demanding film audiences, which supports our efforts, as is the case of festivals such as Guadalajara, Riviera Maya, Ficunam. There’s a cine-club arthouse movement, even big exhibition chains have some space for this kind if cinema,” Stavenhagen added.

Mexico also boasts a vibrant arthouse production, which has a public. For Stavehagen, “the Industry Academy supports and strengthens this movement.”

So the inaugural Locarno Academy in Morelia focuses on distribution. Participants are drawn from a range of companies: ND Mantarraya, Mexico’s highest-profile arthouse distributor, set up by director Carlos Reygadas and Jaime Romandia’s Mantarraya, producer of Reygadas and Amat Escalante’s movies, which bought nine movies at Cannes; Piano Distribucion, a very young indie distrib house; La Ola, a newly-launched shingle focusing on challenging niche distribution; docu distributor Artegios Distribucion; Mexican/arthouse film-focused FilminLatino, backed by Imcine; Cinepolis, Mexico’s giant exhibition chain, and one of the biggest cinema theater circuits in the world.

The quality of Locarno Academy in Morelia speakers brands the Academy, Klotz argued.

The Sundance Institute’s Joseph Beyer, director of digital initiatives, and Marissa Laney, Artist Services manager, will talk about online marketing of a title at Morelia’s new Impulso pix-in-post showcase; other speakers include Lesli Klainberg from Film Society Lincoln Center.

Diana Bustamante, producer of Cannes Camera d’Or winning “Land and Shade” will speak about the Cartagena Festival, which she directs, and Colombia’s industry, and then take part in a short discussion with Locarno Industry Days head Nadia Dresti on festival industry sections, and their importance, Klotz said.

Charles Tesson, at Cannes Critics’ Week, with a long strong relationship with Latin America, and Christophe Terhechte, who heads up Berlin’s Forum, are also down to speak tabout their mission. Yissel Ibarra, from FilminLatino Mexico, and The Criterion Collection’s Kim Hendrickson will team in a joint session on digital distribution. Further speakers are Leopoldo Jimenez, at Nueva Era Films, Mexico’s biggest buyer of French films, and Leonardo Cordero, who has just ankled ND Mantarraya to join Cinepolis, its giant exhibition chain, as its manager of distribution, a key position for the future of smaller in Mexico.

The Academy will also explore distribution of films in Latin America.

“Latin American films travel everywhere in the world, except around Latin America,” said Klotz. She added: “We want to talk about not just Mexico but Latin America: Does a Latin American market really exist? Can one employ common distribution policies or models?”

“Our common objective is to contribute to the development of a proactive, collaborative industry community within and outside those countries, offering a high-quality training program and networking opportunities to the new generation of Latin American independent industry players,” Klotz added.

So one exciting interface will be between the Academy and the Sundance Institute’s Artist Services workshop with Academy participants attending the latter. The U.S. may be four-to-five years ahead of Europe and Latin America in online distribution. Its industry – studio or independent – embraces marketing. Artists Services offers the chance of tactical distribution support and counseling to Sundance Institute alumni via pre-negotiated distribution arrangements taking in, among others, iTunes, Amazon VOD, Google Play, Hulu, Netflix, SnagFilms, Sony Entertainment Network, SundanceNOW, Vudu, and Xbox with Quiver Digital handling aggregation services. It also holds down a creative funding partnership with Kickstarter.

Turning on creative funding, digital distribution and marketing, the Artists Services Morelia Workshop will explore “new models of creative control for producers and filmmakers,” said Keri Putnam, exec director of Sundance Institute.

Program highlights, regarding international speakers, feature interviews, presentations and keynotes from Janet Pierson, SXSW film director, who has turned the festival-conference into an increasingly important indie meet and magnet for digital native filmmakers; docu writer director-producer Ondi Timoner, who won the Sundance Fest Grand Jury Prize for both 2004’s “Dig!” and 2009’s “We Live in Public,” who will talk about the role of an artist entrepreneur; and Kickstarter head of film Dan Schoenbrun, speaking with Laney on creative funding for indie films. Paul O’Neill will perform the first international demonstration of distribution dashboard Quiver Digital.

As the U.S. looks ever more to Mexico for talent and even funding on indie fare, and Mexico looks to the U.S. as a potential second market, a mixture of U.S. and Mexican film models will most likely be increasingly frequent. Knowledge of how they work, their opportunities, is a first step to their integration.